Biden's mission to find cancer cure excites doctors, researchers

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A highlight of President Obama's last State of the Union address was his call to arms in the fight against cancer.

He put the Vice President in charge of what he called a "moonshot": making the cure for cancer a reality.

"I didn't know he was going to do that," Joe Biden whispered to House Speaker Paul Ryan of his new assignment: heading a renewed push to cure cancer. On Good Morning America Wednesday he elaborated on what's possible with the disease that took his son Beau Biden.

"Every single family in America has been affected by cancer. It is the largest killer in the world and we are so close, so incredibly close, on finding cures and fundamental changes in making it a chronic disease in many cases and not a death sentence," Biden said.

In this year's congressional budget negotiations the vice president was instrumental in securing a large increase for the National Institutes of Health. Between that and the optimism in Washington Tuesday night has cancer researchers in Chicago dreaming.

University of Chicago's Dr. Tanguy Siewert is developing new therapies that target one's own immune system to fight cancer. Cancer hides, he says, but new funds can accelerate progress now being made against some of the toughest cancers to beat: lung, breast and brain.

"We can actually take down the camouflage, we can make the cancer visible or some people say you can make yourself allergic to the cancer, and that's very, very powerful," says Dr. Siewert.

"My gut reaction is that this is exciting," says Dr. Walter Stadler, University of Chicago. "There are a lot of interesting things happening in cancer research now that are really going to make a difference for patients and their families."

On Good Morning America, Robin Roberts said that after 40 years, this could be Biden's greatest legacy. "I hope so," he replied. "I hope so."

Part of the critical mass that's emerging in cancer research can be seen in former president Jimmy Carter's recent experience.

He tried out the new cancer drug Keytruda, which helps the immune system take on brain tumors, and said it shrank the tumors. His doctors have noted he received good targeted radiation too.
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